God says in Exo 10.1-2, “And Yehovah said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart (kavedti ha lev) and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I made a mockery of the Egyptians, and How I performed my signs among them, that you may know that I am Yehovah.'”
The focus of the plagues has now changed. They will no longer be done to show Egypt and Pharaoh who the Lord is, that ship has sailed now. Now the plagues are to show Israel who he is (v 2). Israel is the focus now. This has not been the case so far. Israel is going to see the Lord’s total and absolute dominion over the most powerful nation in the world. Egypt will be the conduit for the world to know who he is. The total defeat of Egypt for the benefit of an enslaved people will forever be a testimony to the world that there is a God who exists, and this will not be an even match.
The Lord informs Moses that “you will be able to tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I made a mockery of the Egyptians.” The Lord is going to “toy” with Egypt. This powerful nation will be reduced to nothing by the hand of the Lord. Pharaoh’s resistance to God’s plan has now come to an end and Egypt and Pharaoh will do exactly what the Lord wants them to do, yet it will seem like Pharaoh is still resisting and going after what he desires.
The evidence that God has presented can and will be ignored. Reality can be circumvented because of stubbornness. Being wrong about all of this will be like a crown that Pharaoh will wear. He will be proud of it and this stubbornness will be where Pharaoh will hide, even in light of all the events that he has gone through. His hard heart will be his fortress, his hiding place, but in reality, he will be imprisoned in it. That is what happens to anyone who will not respond to the truth he knows to be true. Pride gets in the way, whatever it is. Pharaoh was a god in Egypt, he didn’t submit to anyone. Now he must acknowledge that he is not a god, humble himself before the Lord and all the people, and that would be unthinkable. So, he just ignores the whole thing and buries his head. We have all done this, but hopefully, we have also learned to respond to the truth when confronted with it.
Exo 10.1 seems to indicate that the Lord is the one who is responsible for what is going on in Pharaoh’s heart, but in the Torah it says it was Pharaoh’s decision to be stubborn and it was Pharaoh who encouraged (strengthened) his own heart after the hail, but the Lord was behind it. Pharaoh was going to do what the Lord wanted him to do. God’s sovereignty over Pharaoh is dealt with in Rom 9.1-18. God chooses who he wants to do what he wants, and the Lord is not being unjust here. He says in Rom 9.15, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So, at the heart of the matter, it says that all of this does not depend on the will of a man but on God who has mercy. It says that it was for this purpose that God raised Pharaoh up. It was to demonstrate his power in him and that his name might be proclaimed throughout the earth. So, he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires.
Exo 10.3 says, “And Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘Thus says Yehovah, the God of the Hebrews. How Long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me.'” Now, first of all, who talks to a king that way, especially the most powerful king in the world. A king bowing before God? How could the Pharaoh submit to God? It is not like a Pharaoh hasn’t ever submitted to the Lord, Joseph’s Pharaoh did. But this Pharaoh was not like the Pharaoh of Joseph.
Rabbi Fohrman says this is very ironic. It was like saying, “You have brutally subjugated my people, stripping them of their dignity, and now you will pay for that by subjugating yourself to me, and being stripped of your own dignity.” Talking to a ruler like that isn’t easy, it takes some “chutzpah.” Why make Pharaoh angrier than he already is. His kingdom is being destroyed, piece by piece. What makes the Lord think that Pharaoh is going to go along with this after saying this to him in verse 3.
But when you really look at it, maybe that is the heart of the matter. God said he was going harden Pharaoh’s heart and this was how he was going to accomplish that. The Lord was going to use Pharaoh’s pride against him, which was at the heart of his resistance. Many have wondered why Pharaoh didn’t just let Israel go. It was only for three days. The movies make it look like the Lord was telling Pharaoh to let the people go for good, completely free, but that is not the case. It was only for a period of three days, and that three days is very prophetic by the way.
Pharaoh has already admitted that Yehovah was God and he had sinned (Exo 9.27). Why be all stubborn about it now? The answer is pride. We all suffer from this, and like Pharaoh, Yehovah will target this in us also. Yehovah will put us into “corners” to move us into where he wants us. With Pharaoh, the Lord was not going to let him give up. Pharaoh’s own attitude won’t let him give in, and that will ultimately destroy him.
Mosses and Aaron tell Pharaoh in Exo 10.4-5, “For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. And they shall cover the face of the land , so that no one shall be able to see the land. They shall also eat the rest of what has escaped-what is left to you from the hail-and they shall eat every tree which sprouts for you out of the field.” The hail destroyed the produce and the locusts will finish the job.
The problem now wasn’t the locusts, the problem now was starvation. They avoided it with the Pharaoh of Joseph, but this Pharaoh was going to bring it on again. After delivering the words of God to Pharaoh, Moses departed. Pharaoh doesn’t blink, he resists. In Exo 10.7 the servants tell him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God . Do you realize that Egypt is destroyed?”
The servants of Pharaoh think Moses is a trap. They think Moses is laying another snare for Pharaoh to fall into. These servants speak very plainly to Pharaoh, as if on the same “level” with the god-king. This shows that Pharaoh is losing his grip over the people. Exo 10.8 says, “So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh, and he said to them, ‘Go, serve the Lord your God! Who are the ones who are going?'”
The Torah doesn’t tell us whom brought Moses and Aaron back, but it was probably the servants of verse 7. They want something done and they have a voice that Pharaoh must deal with. As these servants shrink into the background, Pharaoh is ready to deal and says they can go. In response to Pharaoh’s question in verse 8, Moses tells him that everyone is going, plus all the livestock. Pharaoh probably looked shocked when he heard this. That was not going to happen and he refuses to even consider what Moses has said.
The next plague of locusts comes and they eat everything left over by the hail, just as Moses said. And like before, Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron and tells them in Exo 10.16-17 that he has sinned against Yehovah and Moses. He wants forgiveness and for them to make supplication to the Lord to remove this death from him. So, Moses goes out and asks the Lord to remove the locusts, and a strong west wind came and took the locusts out to sea (the Gulf of Suez). But the Lord hardened (chazek ha lev) Pharaoh’s heart and would not let Israel go (Exo 10.20).
In Part 92 we will pick up here with the next plague of darkness.